Bienvenue à Tunisie, Afrique du Nord!
!مرحبا بكم في تونس ، شمال افريقيا
Welcome to Tunisia, North Africa!
The first time I saw Nikora was August 14th. I didn’t tell him that until our 4th date as we sat close together at a gaudy Venice-themed bar in the expat quarter, a gin-and-tonic buzz temporarily breaking down my don’t be too creepy, now filter. “I lied to you before: the first time I actually saw you was at a restaurant on August 14th, my very first day arriving in Tunis… not at the language school like I told you.”
On the first day of my new life in North Africa, a colleague had taken me downtown to have a traditional lunch, and I distinctly remember my eyes falling directly on him when I walked in. You honestly couldn’t not notice him: a room full of dark, Mediterranean complexions, hijabs, traditional dress, and then him—a dashing young man, possibly half-Asian, slender eyes focused behind thick squared glasses framing a delicate freckled face and messy mane of curly black hair.
He was cutting a piece of melon with a fork and knife. I had never seen such an adorable melon-eater. Perhaps I should have known he was too classy for me then, sandwiched between the other suits, all simultaneously using utensils to eat fruit I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up with my hands. The table oozed etiquette. I lent an ear as I passed by, hearing only hurried chatter in French which I couldn’t understand.
September, one month later: I was just settling into my new home when I went to the local Arabic-language school to inquire about courses. I reached the information office and opened my mouth to speak when a rude woman broke me off to say they were closed. I suddenly noticed Nikora’s presence again. He stood next to me for just a second, only long enough to hear the office was closed, and then he was gone in an instant, briefcase bopping on out the door along with his matching suit and leather loafers. I missed my chance again, but it wouldn’t be the last time.
November, 2 months later: My #1 gal-pal colleague and I set off to a hip cocktail bar we heard had an international ambiance, since drinking alcohol in Tunisia is only enjoyable for women at pricier, more open-minded establishments. We hovered by the bar drinking bottles of local beer, since hard-working women know what they damn well like to drink regardless of the venue. When we were eventually granted 2 coveted seats, I glanced across the bar, eyes widening.
“This is now the 3rd time I’ve seen this cute guy. The stars have aligned; the universe wants us to meet tonight! Should I send him over a beer?”
“Let’s do it—I’m buying!”
Fast-forward through my broken Arabic explanation of whom to send the beer to, lest my chance go up in flames should the beer be sent to one of his colleagues by mistake.
I couldn’t bear to watch him receive the beer, terrified he would look at me and somehow know I was a scruffy, take that melon by the balls type of eater, living in the hard part of the downtown on a budget. I kept my eyes locked on Stacey, trying to be the effortlessly chill, sexy foreigner who frequented this bar regularly with my wicked salary.
All of 1 minute went by before he materialized in front of me, sparkling eyes looking at me from behind that now-familiar pair of thick squared glasses. Only this time, he wasn’t dressed to the nines: he was sporting an open flannel, Levi’s, and a cold refreshing bottle of Celtia beer which I myself had sent to him.
To be continued...